Readings: 1 Samuel 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Psalm 103, Response: The Lord is kind and merciful.; 1 Corinthians 15: 45-49; Luke 6: 27-38
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”—people, myself included, find this precept of the Lord most difficult. How does one love one’s enemies?
C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Four Loves,” gives us a good springboard for our reflections. Lewis discusses the four loves: storge, the love of affection and empathy; philia, the love between friends; eros, the love of a man for a woman; and agape, the unconditional love of God, benevolent love towards all.
Consider these Four Loves of Lewis as stages in a process of our growth as a person. Think of how our own journey to love, to be a loving person, has evolved.
We have seen how many things in our life are influenced, for better or for worse, in early childhood. The natural environment for this is the family where we experience storge, affection and empathy. This experience becomes either a solid foundation or shaky ground.
This affection and empathy allow us to encounter others and develop philia, the love between friends.
In friendship love, we encounter others as equals. What often begins as sharing in many common elements in our life grows into friendship as we begin to make choices.
Philia is the first big conscious choice we make to love. Think of how many keep their childhood or adolescence friends throughout life, at times with a bond deeper than that between blood relatives.
The eros is probably one of the most difficult to discuss because of the “bad publicity” it has received. This is often instantly connected with the erotic, the passionate, and has—with passions—assumed a “bad” connotation. It has created much taboo.
Jesuit priest and esteemed theologian Hans Kung’s discussion of eros and agape in his book, “What I Believe,” critiques how the demonization of eros has led to so many “errors”—and hang-ups of the Church—in areas such as sexuality, human passions, etc.
The agape of the unconditional love of God is very much a love that issues in service, the total and authentic dedication of oneself in the service of others and in love of God and others. The Ignatian “en todo amar y servir; in all things to love and to serve.”
This is the entire context that we can truly live out “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” It is the universal love, the agape, that integrates the storge, the philia and the eros, and becomes a way of life, a state of being or existence without dichotomies, whole and integral.
We think of men and women like Christ in his Passion and Death on the Cross; a Nelson Mandela, a Mahatma Gandhi, a Mother Teresa. They who have embodied and lived out the agape with “genuine human depth, warmth, inwardness, tenderness… [that] radiates love.” Men and women of genuine integrity.
Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, in his homily at the funeral Mass of Bishop Freddie Escaler in 2015, quoted Pope Francis: “With many of us priests, good priests, there is much service, yes. But so often, if there is truly much service, there is not so much tenderness and love.”
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” is not a call to an isolated deed, but to a way of life—an invitation to be a loving person, loving and serving God and others in all things. “En todo amar y servir—in all things to love and to serve.” —CONTRIBUTED